Friendly faces make for happy stay

WINNING WAYS: Helena and Craig Stratford have been awarded top holiday park 2014.
WINNING WAYS: Helena and Craig Stratford have been awarded top holiday park 2014.

The host at a holiday park may be the first person a visitor deals with on their holiday and they can set the tone for that whole trip, the winners of the top holiday park award say.

Helena and Craig Stratford from the Mercury Bay holiday park in Whitianga won the Holiday Association of New Zealand's top prize at its conference in Blenheim, and they said yesterday it was all from offering a traditional Kiwi hospitality experience. Being friendly, honest, and always able to help people was the key to operating a successful holiday park, they said.

"People just want to feel welcomed and valued."

They said they had experienced the same level of friendliness and helpfulness in Marlborough as they provided at their holiday park.

"We haven't had a car, so we've been walking around the town," they said. ‘

‘The pubs, cafes, even the shoe shops have been great."

Craig Stratford was able to get his shoes repaired at short notice at a shop recommended by the first shop he went into.

"They had a two-week waiting time, but the other shop was ‘yeah, I can do that now'," he said.

Their message to other operators was to be always welcoming.

"You have to have a smile in your voice when answering the phone, even if the toilets are blocked and you're going to have to fix them next. When people come to the counter, smile and ask them about their day, what they've seen.

"Our industry, it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from. When people have t-shirts and jandals on, we're all the same."

AA Tourism Publishing general manager Moira Penman said the Stratfords demonstrated it was the little things that can make a huge difference to their guests' experience.

"Jump starting cars, lending spades to dig soak holes at the famous Hot Water Beach, booking boat trips and restaurants, recommending things to see and do, charging mobile phones and changing tyres are just a few of the things their guests have said they have appreciated," she said.

"Here is a team of just two that is proud to have the opportunity every day to be ambassadors for their town, industry and New Zealand. It was this simple belief the judges felt embodied the philosophy of the AA Traveller Spirit of Hospitality Award."

Holiday Parks Association New Zealand chief executive Fergus Brown said the AA Traveller Spirit of Hospitality Award is recognised by association members as the premium award.

"This award emphasises the importance of world class customer service and acknowledges those who are providing their guests with an exceptional experience.